WTO head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says she expects the ministerial meeting to be challenging
WTO head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says she expects the ministerial meeting to be challenging. AFP

The World Trade Organization Tuesday enshrined new rules facilitating trade in services between more than 70 member states, the European Union's trade commissioner said, despite initial objections from India and South Africa.

The set of rules will streamline authorization requirements and ease procedural hurdles faced by businesses, according to a press release.

It will help reduce the costs of global services trade by more than $119 billion every year, it added.

Its integration into the WTO implies all 164 members have approved as per the body's rules which require full consensus.

"Reaching this outcome...and integrating it into the WTO has not been an easy pass," EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said during the WTO's 13th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi.

"We faced opposition from two WTO members" but a "spirit of compromise" eventually cleared hurdles, he said without naming any country.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, meanwhile, thanked "India and South Africa for finding a way forward," calling services the "future of trade."

Global services exports are valued at more than $6.5 trillion, representing 23 percent of total world trade, according to the EU.

The latest WTO agreement applies to 71 member states who signed the initiative but businesses from other member states can also benefit.

China, the United States and the EU are among the 71 signatories. India and South America have not signed.

Costa Rica, which led the negotiations on the initiative, called it "a significant milestone" for member states and the WTO.

This "is the first WTO result in the field of services in more than 25 years. A real success story for this organization," said Costa Rica's foreign trade minister Manuel Tovar.